BRISTOL, Tenn. – An early-season runner-up during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series campaign has not yet led to bigger things for Brittany Force like it did a year ago. But confident that those difficulties are now out of the way, the Top Fuel star is eager to get into the win column for the first time this season.
Doing it at one of her favorite tracks, Bristol Dragway, would be an added bonus, as would doing it on Father’s Day Weekend, which is the date for the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 16-18. Force has yet to win at the scenic track in her 10,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster, but she believes her time is coming.
“We went to the finals in Phoenix, and since then, we’ve been trying to figure it out,” Force said. “It wasn’t until we went testing at Indy that we got our old car back. We’ve had some problems, but we figured out it was a problem with the clutch. I’m definitely excited for our first win of the season. It’s tough, but I look back on last year and know that we’d already accomplished that in Gainesville and in Charlotte. It pushes us more, it makes us stronger. We’re definitely hungry for that first win.”
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including final eliminations coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 18. It is the 11th of 24 events during the 2017 season and comes as the third race during a stretch of four straight race weekends.
Force welcomes that grueling stretch, hopeful it allows her to make a move in the standings and grab her first win of 2017 after already having two by this point last year. Currently seventh in points, Force also knows what a victory in Bristol during Father’s Day Weekend would mean to her father, legendary Funny Car driver John Force.
“Racing in Bristol on Father’s Day is always special,” Force said. “It always happens to land on that weekend, and Courtney and I do the track walk with our dad, which is something fun before race day. Bristol is one of my favorite race tracks – Thunder Valley. It’s a Bruton Smith track, and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a race that I want to win, it’s a race I will win one of these days. I’d love to do it this year on Father’s Day.”
To do so, she’ll have to beat the likes of three-time 2017 winner and points leader Leah Pritchett, who beat Force in Phoenix, back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, eight-time champ Tony Schumacher, two-time 2017 winner Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta, rookie Troy Coughlin and Clay Millican. But as stout as the Top Fuel competition is, Force and her team were simply trying to solve their own issues early on. They rebounded from three straight first-round losses with a round win in Topeka, and Force will aim to make up a lot of ground in a short time over the next month.
“I’ve always liked back-to-back races,” said Force, who has three career wins. “For me, it makes me feel more comfortable. Taking a weekend off or two weekends off, you kind of have to find your way back into it. Four in a row, I’m pumped for it, I’m ready for it. It helps me stay on my toes, and the momentum just carries over. You have that hype, that energy from the last year. For me, I like four in a row. I’m not out of the seat long, and it’s something I’ve always liked. Not just me as a driver, but the whole team. It keeps us moving forward.”
Johnson’s Funny Car win helped propel him to a career-best second place finish behind Ron Capps a season ago, but Capps has been red-hot in his title defense, winning four straight races.
Line used last year’s Pro Stock win to help claim a third world championship, but he’s chasing points leader Bo Butner, who claimed his first two career Pro Stock wins this season.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes its seventh of 12 stops in the 2017 season in Englishtown. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Douthit Motorsports eye lighting Black Pearl Jet Funny Car. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 17, at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 18